Understanding the value of public sector information in Australia: Submission to the OAIC

Policy Local government Economics Information resources management Australia
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In making this submission, we hope to assist The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) in developing a methodology for valuing Public Sector Information (PSI) and to contribute to the current draft and design of proposed subsequent agency and user survey questionnaires.

To that end, we extend the literature survey presented in The OAIC's Issues Paper 2 by critically reviewing methods for valuing PSI and exploring their data requirements. We note that the various methods answer slightly different questions, depend on different data and data collection methods, and exhibit different strengths and weaknesses. In an attempt to clarify some of the issues, Table 1 presents a preliminary matching of methods to data types and mechanisms for collection.

Outlining possible approaches to estimating the value of openly publishing PSI, we begin with the most direct agency and user costs and cost savings, suggesting an activity-cost approach. We then move to the wider impacts and benefits of enhancing the accessibility of PSI, suggesting that a range of possible methods could be used. We then present a brief guide to the data requirements for these methods.

Initially, the feasibility testing of a selection of these methods for measuring the value derived from more open PSI publishing might be approached through agency case studies. Then agency and user surveys might be designed in such a way as to solicit the information required for the selected method or methods, with some confidence that agencies can and will respond, and preliminary analysis done to ascertain the feasibility and operational practicality of the methods vis-à-vis data that can be collected through surveys.

Ultimately, once proven, a selection of such methods might be formalised in a spreadsheet-based cost-benefit model, into which data from agency and user surveys, website and download reports could be combined to generate PSI publishing value and benefit/cost results for individual agencies and, perhaps, government as a whole, on an annual basis. This is not to suggest that it is only about quantitative issues, and throughout the analysis it will be important to integrate qualitative 'valuations' with the quantitative ones (e.g. using a balanced scorecard or similar approach).

In making this submission, we hope to convey that, while the task of demonstrating the value created by publishing PSI is challenging and complex, it is possible. Moreover, it may well be possible to develop a reporting tool that would make the task relatively simple and inexpensive for reporting agencies to meet their annual reporting obligations.

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